CARACAS – Several thousand students marched Friday in the Venezuelan capital in support of government and legislative gun-control proposals to disarm the civilian population.
Under the slogan “A safe society in favor of peace,” Caracas primary schools and high schools joined the activities of the recently founded Experimental University of Security, or Unes, which trains agents for the Bolivarian National Police, another recent creation.
Unes rector Soraya El Achkar told reporters in the march that “the formula for eradicating violence in a country is the peaceful resolution of conflicts and not the use of guns.”
A special commission of the National Assembly and a presidential commission are currently debating possible laws and promoting activities for disarming the civilian population and defining policies against the “culture of violence.”
Though statistics are now being prepared, several sources estimate that between 10 and 15 million firearms are in the hands of Venezuelan citizens, a country of 30 million inhabitants where 98 percent of homicides involve guns.
A permit is required in Venezuela to purchase and carry arms, but the lack of control, admitted by the authorities, and widespread corruption often shift weapons from security forces to the criminal underworld.
President Hugo Chavez acknowledged early this year that criminals killed 155,000 people over the last 10 years, and his Interior Minister Tareck El Aissami said that the homicide rate of 48 for every 100,000 inhabitants is “higher than the Latin American average.”
The executive secretary of the Presidential Commission for Gun and Ammunition Control and Disarmament, Pablo Fernandez, for his part announced that “marches like this will be staged all over the country to spread the message of peace to every street in Venezuela.” EFE